Last week, I published a piece in Foreign Policy entitled “The War On Soft Power.” I argued that many official instruments of soft or attractive power — public diplomacy, broadcasting, exchange programs, development assistance, disaster relief, military-to-military contacts — are scattered around the government, and there is no overarching strategy or budget that even tries to integrate them. But cutting them all to zero would make no difference to the resolution of our trillion dollar deficit problem. By cutting $8.5 billion from the State Department budget, Congress did nothing about the deficit, but took a large slice out of our foreign policy capacity. I concluded that “Congress needs to be serious about deficit reduction, and it also needs to be serious about foreign policy. The events of the past week suggest it is serious about neither.” Read more
Posts tagged ‘power’
Last weekend, I chaired a panel at the Munich Security Conference on cyber security. This is the first time the venerable gathering has addressed the issue. German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed it, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague devoted nearly his whole speech to Britain’s new cyber strategy. Until recently, the issue of cyber security has largely been the domain of computer geeks and specialists. When the internet was created forty years ago, this small community was like a virtual village of people who knew each other, and they designed a system with little attention to security. Even the commercial Web is only two decades old. Security experts wrestling with cyber issues are at about the same stage in understanding the implications of this new technology as nuclear experts were in the early years after the first nuclear explosions. Read more
The people’s rebellion in Egypt is the most daunting and dangerous foreign policy test of the Obama Presidency. And, it got a lot harder on Wednesday. Shocking violence by pro-Mubarak armed gangs against largely peaceful protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square raised the stakes both for an embattled Hosni Mubarak and for the U.S. government.
The attacks appear to be the first strike in a counter-offensive by Egyptian security forces to take back the streets of Cairo and reverse the momentum of the reformers who, until Wednesday, appeared on the verge of unseating Mubarak after thirty years in power. Watching the discipline and uniformity of the pro-Mubarak forces in Cairo on Wednesday led many around the world, myself included, to suspect that they were acting in concert with security forces or were part of the security establishment themselves. Whoever they were, they have turned this crisis in a new and more menacing direction. Read more
As authoritarian Arab regimes struggle with Twitter and Al Jazeera inflamed-demonstrations; Iran tries to cope with the cyber sabotage of its nuclear enrichment program; and American diplomats try to understand the impact of Wikileaks, it is clear that smart policy in an information age will need a more sophisticated understanding of power in world politics.
That is the argument of my new book The Future of Power. Two types of power shifts are occurring in this century – power transition and power diffusion. Power transition from one dominant state to another is a familiar historical event, but power diffusion is a more novel process. The problem for all states in today’s global information age is that more things are happening outside the control of even the most powerful states. In the words of Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (and once a faculty member at the Kennedy School), “the proliferation of information is as much a cause of nonpolarity as is the proliferation of weaponry.” Read more
Welcome to the Power & Policy blog, being launched today by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School.
The purpose of this online forum is to advance policy-relevant knowledge about the exercise of American power in the world today. We are pleased to have an exceptional team of contributors with decades of experience thinking about, and executing, U.S. foreign policy. Power & Policy aims to illuminate the role of American power through disciplined policy analysis and prescription.
In the weeks that follow, each contributor will address specific policy issues, helping to define the problem, clarify policy objectives, and distill the facts and assumptions used to estimate advantages and cons of policy alternatives. The blog also will invite guest contributions and encourage reader comments, aiming to generate a robust conversation on these critical issues.
Through this undertaking, we hope to provoke new ideas, sharpen arguments, and gain a deeper understanding of the exercise of power, and America’s unique role in the world.